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The Internet and its Effects on Critical Thinking

Updated on March 9, 2015

The Internet provides students and researchers with a plethora of sources, ideas, and information literally at the touch of a button. The Net contains billions of kilobytes of data that may or may not be misleading to the everyday researcher. With the amount of knowledge available and the ease of access provided, researching is but a point and click away. No longer are the main sources of information located in tangible form such as books, documents, and articles, but have been replaced by search engines, downloads, and digital copies. However the internet is full of misleading and bias opinions posing as fact and datum. The following articles have been brought together in order to synthesize the use of the internet and its effects on critical thinking. Students need instruction and training on how to verify online sources before acclaiming them as reliable material.

Social media is one the fastest ways to propagate information from person to person. Whole industries are built off the relay of information formed within Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; you may immediately distribute articles, news feeds, and blogs to the wondering eyes of the entire world. Hot button issues are immediately engaged to pull and attract readers with tantalizing bits of information that entice. A study administered to the 2000-2001 “Computers and Internet” class of Wellesley College, Massachusetts, showed that nearly 60% of the students administered too readily accepted a single source of information as reliable for research, and in some instances that percentage was higher when the source reported was of high report or well known (Graham & Metaxes, 2003). Students in many instances revert to doing as little effort as possible to obtain an answer that meets their standard of requirements. If it sounds right, then it must be right. Many academic institutions are aware that the internet is full of articles written by unaccredited authors and methods have been developed for evaluating references. The CRAAP test was created by the English department at Chico State University to help students determine if an online source is reliable and accurate (Chico State, 2010).

Addiction to the internet has grown rapidly since the speed and versatility of the Net has increased in the past decade. Games, communication, shopping, and even education are all available through the World Wide Web. This creates an atmosphere of false socialization which deteriorates the critical thinking ability of students. According to Shahram Mami and Azedeh Hatami-Zad Department of Psychology at Azad University in Iran, addiction to the internet is accompanied with such symptoms as anxiety, depression, misbehavior, obsessive thoughts, seclusion, and interruption in social connections (Mami & Hatami-Zad, 2014). This aids in the lost ability of critical thinking and the ability to solve problems efficiently. When someone is depressed or obsessed it creates a barrier between what that person wants, and what that person can do. Although it is true that too much time on the internet can cause social disorders and behavioral change, the same is also true of television and video games. Shahram and Azedeh also state in their article that internet addiction is indirectly related to academic achievement. The more time spent on the internet and the use there of, the less likely the student will be in succeeding in school. Shahram and Azedeh, although not writing specifically on how the internet affects critical thinking, show an obvious connection between internet use and academic success. Critical thinking is the key to problem solving. It also helps students be able to learn and retain information.

Our future workplace depends on a generation that can problem solve. Many philosophers and theorists tried and tested hypotheses in order to prove or disprove them. They did tons of research and traveled far distances in order to know for themselves if what they believed was true. I see forums and posts circulating social media every day that never state their credentials. My Fitness for Life professor even stated in class, “You can’t believe anything posted on the internet.” After seeing at the bottom of a health related article, “signed Greg Thompson, Nutritional Expert.” My professor continued to announce that anyone with any sort of degree would be proud to state the amount of time and effort shown by the preface Ph.D. As shown by the research conducted by Steven Jones, 60% of his students would refer to the same search engine even though a single search engine can only produce %16 of the total relevant information (Jones, 1999). He goes on to describe that it is necessary to use multiple sources to find the validity of a single piece of information.

Due to the incredible exposure the Net has to multiple authors, a single piece of information can be edited and posted several times with different specifics each time. There is no internet police and anything can be added or posted. Local universities have become the sanctuary for upper-value information. Every institution has a library, or database, that is filled with approved articles and authors who have proven their opinions to be of value. Encyclopedias and local libraries used to be the only means of finding dependable pieces of information. Slowly books are being replaced by laptops, tablets, and computer screens. It is important that the books and writings we have be translated into something with a longer life span for future generations.

It is our right as Americans to exercise our freedom and speech and express our opinions. It is a critical part of our culture to be as educated or ignorant as we want. Future students need to be able to determine if what they see on the internet is actual truth or just another bias opinion. The internet affects the way we interpret and understand information. Critical thinking is the process by which we accept and apply information. The preceding articles demonstrate how the internet affects our critical thinking.


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